Saw palmetto is reportedly one of the best-selling herbal remedies used to treat benign prostate problems. With few known side effects and some research to back up the manufacturer's claims, the alternative medicine does seem to be beneficial to some men. However, consumers who attempt to self-treat with the herbal remedy may not be getting what they pay for--some saw palmetto products do not contain as much of the herb as claimed on the label, according to Consumer Reports. The saw palmetto plants can vary widely in their content of active ingredients, so Consumer Reports commissioned tests of 13 saw palmetto brands, including 7 of the top U.S. sellers. The study revealed that only 8 of the 13 brands supplied the 320-milligram amount of herbal extract shown to be beneficial in clinical trials. The other 5 brands fell short, with the recommended pills supplying as little as 1% of the desirable daily dosage, the report states. Clinical trials have shown that saw palmetto is effective for mild prostate problems, but most studies lasted only 6 months or less and have only tested the herb "against a placebo, not against a prescription drug. The American Urological Association, which represents urologists, says it's keeping an open mind while awaiting the outcome of longer clinical trials, including a one-year placebo-controlled study of saw palmetto funded by the National Institutes of Health. In addition, Consumer Reports is expanding its herbal-testing program in an effort to test those supplements that have done best in the clinical trials. This will benefit consumers who are interested in using herbal remedies as well as physicians, she suggests. September, 2000.
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